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First to the Bench

panel photo of First to the Bench: A Discussion with First Generation Judges on the Federal and State Courts

The Center for Judicial Events & Clerkships (CJEC) is dedicated to building broad communities of support. Foremost is developing a community for our first generation students. At times it is not always obvious the support structure that exists, so it is critical to create a community that is vibrant, visible and welcoming.

To meet this goal, in its inaugural year the CJEC developed a first generation initiative – First to the Bench Event - in collaboration with our student organizations, including the newly launched Fordham First Generation Student Organization (F1GS).

First Generation Jurist Speaker

Each academic year, the CJEC welcomes a prominent member of the judiciary to the law school who is the first in their family to attend college or professional school or is an immigrant to speak about their path to the bench to our self-identified first generation students and alumni. We have titled this talk "First to the Bench".

The format for each year’s talk is flexible. Whether a lecture by the jurist followed by a Q&A, a fireside chat with the jurist moderated by one of their clerks or a dialogue with the jurist moderated by one of our first generation student leaders. It is the impact of hearing these life stories that matters. Simply put they inspire and help our students see the possible.

The First to the Bench speaker is central to our annual community building event. At the conclusion of the talk the CJEC hosts a reception designed to foster a vibrant and supportive community for our first generation students and alumni. At the reception we welcome our alumni first generation current and former judicial clerks and members of our faculty to meet and mingle with our current first generation students and each other. Sharing their stories and backgrounds and forging relationships. This is, also, a unique opportunity to ask questions in a comfortable and informal environment. Equally important, it offers an unparalleled opportunity to engage with a member of the judiciary in an informal setting.


In 2019, Fordham Law School launched the IDEAL Program. The IDEAL students are a cohort of ten (10) first generation pre-law students whom Fordham Law is mentoring and supporting. As part of the CJEC’s First to the Bench event, we partner with the Office of Student Affairs to arrange a pre-event meet and greet for the IDEAL Students with our First Generation Jurist Speaker. Through this pre-event meet up we hope to inspire the next generation of lawyers and … possible jurists!